Dean's August 2019 Newsletter
Letter from the Dean
As we welcome future Vandal engineers to campus this week with the start of the fall semester, campus feels alive and new. Energy is high, and students, faculty and staff alike, are eager to start the semester off strong.
Much of that energy stems from our new leadership on campus, under Vandal alumnus and U of I President Scott C. Green ’84. President Green, an accomplished executive with a career in global finance, operations and administration, started at U of I on July 1. Green returned to Idaho from New York, where he acted as global chief operating and financial officer of Hogan Lovells, one of the largest law firms in the world.
Despite the busy month, I was able to sit down with President Green to talk about his views on education and the future of the College of Engineering.
LS: The demand for a well-educated, technology workforce is strong in today’s economy. Industry in Idaho and across the nation face a workforce shortage in particular for engineers and computer scientists. What do you think are the most important factors in attracting more students to U of I to earn these degrees?
SG: For engineering and computer science students, but really for all students, we have to ensure affordability. Keeping costs low and enhancing our scholarship programs are important. We have to work toward diversity, to bring more talented people into technology fields. I also appreciate how the College of Engineering is focused on outreach to our middle and high schools to help steer students toward engineering and get them excited. The Women in Engineering programs bring more girls into engineering by providing workshops, hands-on activities and STEM experiences. Our Engineering Ambassadors are invaluable, connecting with prospective students and participating in events. In addition to all that, as a university community, including our alumni, we can work to showcase the great academic opportunities students have at U of I, so prospective students know what we’re all about.
LS: You were an industry leader in your career before coming to U of I to be president. What do you think the College of Engineering is doing well for preparing our students for industry?
SG:Preparation for careers to me means being hands-on in the curriculum and having multi-faceted engagement with industry. That’s a strength at the College of Engineering. The Micron Student Center is a success story I’m learning about. It offers a central location for important support with academic and career advising, financial and scholarship resources, and STEM outreach. Cooperative Education program (Co-Op) seems to be an innovative way to get students connected with industry, to learn skills, gain experience, and build relationships, all while earning money. We have great industry partners – SEL, Micron, Boeing, INL, Avista and others. I want to keep listening to our industry partners and making sure we’re meeting their needs as we help prepare the next generation of engineers and computer scientists and other professionals.
LS: You’ve talked a lot about U of I growing its research programs and the large number of undergraduates involved in research. How do you think our college can support this effort?
SG:Research, and undergraduate participation in that work, are real differentiators for our university. Students want to learn and grow while contributing to something meaningful. At Convocation, I asked students, “What problem will you help solve?” The college’s Grand Challenges Scholars Program is a good example of that ethos here at U of I – it prepares undergraduates to contribute to solving complex, large-scale challenges. That’s what U of I does so well – making a difference for Idaho and for our planet. Let’s keep building on that success. I know many donor-created programs also contribute to the ability of undergraduates to have assistantships and active roles in research through that. We’re very grateful to have that support.
LS: You often say we need to do a better job of telling our story of all the great things the university does. What are the stories you think we need to tell?
SG:We can’t take it for granted that people outside the university know our strengths in areas like cybersecurity, information science, nuclear engineering, microelectronics, and more. I’ve been really energized to learn about how leading-edge we are in areas like that, and how students can play an active role in those projects. Our graduates get great jobs! They work for global companies. The senior capstone projects, our Co-Op program, and the strong curriculum all play a role in that. Importantly, our faculty members are nationally recognized, but they’re also mentors and leaders. They drive the excellence in the classroom and in the research arena. I’m certainly going to use my platform to tell those stories. I hope engineering alumni join me in telling anyone who will listen about how U of I helped them elevate their lives and achieve success.
U of I Students Partner with Air Force on Biofuel
Goal to commercialize non-freezing, carbon-negative, biojet additive
“You don’t think about putting food in your engine. But when I saw the properties of this plant oil, I knew this was what we’d been looking for. It’s pretty much like diesel from a chemical property standpoint.” Brian Hanson '19
Biological Engineering Master's Graduate
Biological engineering master's graduate Brian Fino Hanson ’19, chemical engineering junior Sara Murphy and U of I research support scientist Chad Dunkel are part of a research partnership with the Air Force to commercialize a biofuel that doesn’t freeze at high altitudes and has the potential to be carbon negative.
A culmination of three years of research, Hanson said a key to this new biofuel is a coconut oil-based additive.
View more photos on Facebook.
Engineering Robotics in Boise
Discovery Center of Idaho tests feasibility of new robotic arm designed by U of I engineering graduates as future exhibit
The Discovery Center of Idaho is working toward building a robotics exhibit with a team of our engineering graduates!
The robotic arm uses LEDs and monochromatic cameras to generate 3D versions of the objects it observes. Users simply hold their hands over the small device, and without touching it, the controller can track an individual's palm, forearm and individual finger joints on each hand. These messages are transferred to the robotic arm, which can mimic a user's movements at the shoulder, elbow and wrist. Its base can rotate, and the arm can sort, stack and build using wooden blocks.
Mechanical engineering and computer science majors Chaeun Kim, Evangelos Stratigakes, Austyn Sullivan-Watson, and Zhihui Wang spent the last year developing the robotic arm as part of the College of Engineering’s nationally ranked senior design capstone program.
Summer with NASA
Engineering students work with NASA and Idaho Space Grant Consortium industry partners
College of Engineering Students are interning with NASA across the country and here in Idaho.
Students work through the Idaho Space Grant Consortium (ISGC) on the Moscow campus. ISGC connects students to mentor-directed, career-related internship programs that contribute to NASA’s mission of space exploration and discovery.
Kelley Verner grew up in the ballet. She also cared about her natural surroundings.
She’d take ballet lessons since the age of 4. From a long line of Vandals, it wasn’t a surprise that she attended the University of Idaho. It was until after her first year of college, however, that she realized she wanted to pursue a different path – engineering.
This story was originally featured in Idaho Falls Magazine.
Creating Kids Who Can Code
Computer Science Department partners with Doceo Center in annual Middle School Coding Camp
Our own Computer Science Chair Terry Soule was part of a collaborative effort to help middle school students explore artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality and robotics.
The Middle School Coding Camp, funded by Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, was hosted in conjunction with University of Idaho College of Education, Health and Human Sciences' Doceo Center to emphasize the importance of math and science in technology.
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College of Engineering Research Professor and Industrial Technology Program Director Michael McKellar was one of 54 academic inventors named senior member by the National Academy of Inventors this summer. NAI senior members are active faculty, scientists and administrators from member institutions who have demonstrated innovation-producing technologies that have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society.
McKellar was publicly recognized on a national level for process modeling and his innovations, particularly in nuclear engineering, where he and colleagues developed hybrid energy, cooling, and waste treatment systems for energy facilities.
Dr. Moses Lee, senior director for scientific research and enrichment programs for the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, toured lab facilities on the Moscow campus this month.
Our college received a grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to support equipment upgrades in the Power Lab. Improvements are ongoing to construct a distributed testbed for smart grid and industrial control systems cybersecurity research, connecting laboratories in Moscow, Idaho Falls, and Coeur d’Alene to build capacity for research and instruction on cybersecurity of smart grid and industrial control systems.
Upcoming Engineering Events
Sept. 13 – 2019 Michael Kyte Distinguished Lecture – Featuring Purdue University engineering professor Darcy Bullock to speak on how "Our Vehicles Know More about Our Transportation Infrastructure Than We Do.”
Sept. 25 – Engineering Diversity Dinner – Learn about the positive impact of diversity on the engineering community. Featuring panel discussion and dinner. RSVP by Friday, Sept. 20 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oct. 3 – Vandal Tech Talk – Department of Computer Science CDA hosted event where alumni meet with current students to see presentations on senior capstone design projects, graduate research, internship and co-op experiences, and learn about how students are taking their careers to the next level with a degree from U of I and the support of our alumni.
Oct. 18 – Women in Engineering Day – 11th- and 12th-grade students are invited to participate in this free workshop to introduce students to career options in engineering and computer science.
Oct. 25 – Academy of Engineers Class of 2019 Induction Ceremony
Oct. 25 – Grand Challenge Scholars Program Pitch Event – Students pitch projects that address the 14 NAE Grand Challenges and secure funding for their ideas.